I've been thinking quite a bit about last week's Champions League matches that were televised on ESPN2 in America. It's hard not to when you consider the amount of passion, suspense and skill that were on display during the two away wins. Arsenal over Real Madrid, and Barcelona beating Chelsea.
But, take a step back, and you'll see those two games in a whole different light... Last week's matches were a preview of this summer's World Cup, just 100 days away.
Let's consider some of the players on the field during those two games and the countries that they'll be representing in this summer's World Cup:
France: Thierry Henry, Claude Makelele
Argentina: Lionel Messi, Hernan Crespo
England: John Terry, Joe Cole, David Beckham, Frank Lampard
Germany: Lens Jehmann
Brazil: Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Robinho, Roberto Carlos
As you can see, this brief list is a whos-who of World Cup talent, and there were plenty of other players from those two games that could be listed above.
But how do the two games and players gives us hints about the 2006 World Cup?
First is that Messi is going to shine brightly with Argentina. His dribbling skills will tear opposition defenses apart. Second, the English contingent -- in both games -- fell foul of the same old story. Lots of hype, but far too little substance. Beckham, Lampard and Cole were invisible in the matches when it mattered the most. John Terry, however, was the shining star battling for every ball. If Terry wasn't on the field last week, Chelsea could have easily lost 1-4.
The Brazilians were looking haggard and surprisingly very poor. If national team manager Carlos Alberto Parreira selects Ronaldho and Roberto Carlos to play in the World Cup games this summer, Brazil are going to be in trouble. The one exception with the Brazilians is Ronaldinho, again proving why he's one of the best players in the world, deservedly so.
On the negative side, FIFA will have to stamp down on the play-acting and time-wasting during this summer's World Cup.
Judging by the two Champions League games televised last week, this summer's World Cup will be as exciting as ever. If Brazil can get knocked out of the tournament in the later rounds, it could be anyone's World Cup to win.